By: Kayla & Justin butts Photos by: Maude Côté Davis
What do you do (from a culinary perspective) with an octopus? How about a squid? Seriously, how do you take a raw squid and make it unforgettably delicious?
Haemul Pajeon, a savory pancake made famous in Korea, combines them, along with shrimp and scallops. The garlicky batter dotted with scallions, peppers, and seafood has a compelling variety of flavors and textures worthy of traversing ocean and sea.
Octopus, squid, and other crazy-looking sea creatures are popular fare in many countries around the world, particularly regions where folks eat the local harvest – whatever it is – and make the most of every ingredient. Unfortunately, if you find a squid in South Texas, it will most likely be sold as bait!
But the times, and our palates, are changing. As the demand for sustainable farming and fishing grows, we must push ourselves to rediscover some underappreciated ingredients. Sometimes, as with the Korean seafood pancake, these ingredients can astonish us with their flavor.
This dish is sustainable eating at its best. First, the ingredients are sustainable. Octopus and squid are low-demand seafood products in America. The overfishing of salmon, tuna, and the like have placed enormous pressure on these limited resources. Expanding our diet to include less-targeted ingredients allows a more balanced approach to our ocean harvests.
This dish is sustainable for our health, too. Octopus, squid, shrimp, and scallops are rich in lean protein, vitamins, and minerals. On top of that, these ingredients are low in mercury, unlike tuna and other popular fish species. Our bodies crave this kind of healthy nutrition.
This dish is also sustainable for our pocketbook. These supposedly “lesser” seafood ingredients are quite affordable compared to wild-caught salmon and sushi-grade tuna. You can actually afford to eat as many healthy Korean seafood pancakes as you like!
And that is lucky, because you will crave this dish often. Korean seafood pancakes are sweet, spicy, umami, crunchy, and chewy, with traces of garlic and onion and the magical spices in the buchimgaru mix.
Buchimgaru mix is a special blend of rice flour, potato starch, and spices that is a staple item in Korean households. You can find this mix at local gem Asian Market, conveniently located off of South Padre Island Drive. If you have not shopped at Asian Market, get ready for an incredible food experience. Pro tip: grab the gochugaru (red chili) flakes and other specialties while you are there.
All of the seafood ingredients can be found at the amazing Paul’s Seafood, 9810 SPID, in Corpus Christi. Octopus, squid, shrimp, and scallops are locally harvested and sold fresh from the fishing boats. The fishmonger is very helpful, and the prices are great.
The Korean seafood pancake is sustainable eating at its best. This is a great way to help save the planet, one delicious bite at a time!
Haemul Pajeon with Dipping Sauce
Makes 4-6 Pancakes
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
2 cups buchimgaru (Korean pancake) mix
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 tbs roasted sesame seed oil
2 3/4 cups ice water
4 ounces each: squid, octopus, shrimp, and scallops, cut into small pieces no larger than 1”
2 bunches scallions, halved with root ends discarded
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 ounces red chilis, thinly sliced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, grated
1/2 tsp gochugaru flakes (Korean red chili flakes)
In a large bowl, mix together buchimgaru mix, salt, garlic, sesame seed oil, ice water and eggs. The resulting batter should be a thin consistency, resembling that of crepe batter.
Prepare your area by assembling the seafood, scallions, and peppers near your stove top. Preheat vegetable oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Mix together dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
Once the oil starts to shimmer, add 4-6 scallions to the center of the skillet, followed by a small handful of peppers, and finally 2-3 pieces of each type of seafood. Starting in the center, ladle batter over the scallion mixture, enough to cover all the ingredients. Brown for 4 minutes, until pancake has turned a nice golden brown. Flip the pancake over and cook another 3-4 minutes.
Continue with this method, making more pancakes until you have used all your scallions, peppers, and seafood. Serve pancakes immediately with dipping sauce as accompaniment.